Xochimilco is one of the main attractions of Mexico talking in terms of culture and tradition. It is also one of the most colorful destinations in the Mexican territory, is located southeast of the country capital, being one of the sixteen delegations that make up the Federal District.
Xochimilco is translated from the Nahuatl language as “Land of Flowers”, and ultimately that’s what this place represents. A colorful culture that keeps its principal indigenous roots and transmits its traditions. The origins of Xochimilco move to pre-Hispanic times, time when it was home to several indigenous peoples that left many of their cultural traits and heritage that keeps this place today, regardless of who have made great strides towards urbanization.
There are three main attributes in this land of flowers: the first is its channels; passing through the city giving life and creating islands around, the second are the “Chinampas”; an ancient method of agriculture and territorial expansion which are rafts covered with ground and are used to cultivate flowers and vegetables, creating a floating city, and finally the “Trajineras”; It is the main and most attractive method of transportation along the canals.
Canals of Xochimilco
For the different attributes that I mentioned, Xochimilco has a great ecological, cultural and historical value. That is why, in order to preserve the chinampas was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco since 1987, because the chinampas are one of the main legacies and work samples of their ancestors to build his habitat in a unfavorable land for various activities. However, this statement has been jeopardized by a number of factors such as: pollution of channels, replacement of chinampas for greenhouse cultivation, deforestation of native trees, water abstraction for human consumption, etc.
The main reason to visit Xochimilco are the rides aboard trajineras across the different canals. A trajinera is a type of boat that resulted from the evolution of the different means of navigation used by the people who have inhabited this place, in response to transportation needs for both people and for commercial purposes. These boats were used as transport for all people of the Basin of Mexico, many of which today are no longer related to this due to the loss of its lakes.
Trajineras are colorful boats, adorned with flowers and names of women. Formerly they used to be decorated with fresh natural flowers that abounded in Xochimilco flower crops in chinampas, because of that is said to be a place of floating gardens. But today, due to the costs of maintaining these ornaments in the trajineras, are replaced by artificial flowers, but those ones sometimes lost its color due to the sun and are not as beautiful as fresh flowers. Moreover, in many cases we tend to name our greatest assets as someone we like or love, as someone who buys a boat and writes the name of the beloved on it. This usually happens with the trajineras, on their front there is always a name, either to celebrate someone or to honor the name of a girlfriend or loved one.
There are trajineras with many colors and names, all come and go from all different directions in the canals of Xochimilco Lake. Many passengers on board them, whole families who wish to celebrate, couples sharing a romantic moment, others not so happy, there are also mariachis on board seeking for someone who want to hear a song, there are also floating vendors selling everything from candy apples until soft toys. There are community trajineras where you pay less for your journey accompanied by other people, there are also local people who go trajinera to trajinera sharing the stories of Xochimilco, so there are options for all kind of likes. While navigating in your trajinera you can just enjoy the scenery, and sometimes it is possible to descend into one of the different markets around the canals, the most common ones are plants markets where you can find all kind of plants.
The story most told in Xochimilco is the one of Julian Santana Barrera who inhabited an island for over fifty years, he began hanging dolls as a defense against a spirit that he was victim, dolls that he found in the trash and people regaled him. It is said that the spirit was of a young woman and he was found drowned near the chinampa where Mr. Julian used to grow corn and flowers. After several years of living in this place, he was found drowned near where he lived and today the place is known as the Dolls Island, one of the main attractions for curious visitors.
Xochimilco is a place rich in tradition and cultural beauty to share, full of color, life and folklore. In short, a land of flowers and so full of colors like these ones.
Versión en Español: XOCHIMILCO – MÉXICO, TIERRA DE FLORES